Around 1.2 million children are involved in prostitution in India, making up roughly 40% of the nation's sex workers, while an untold more are forced into labor or criminal gangs. Founded in 1993 by Stanley Varagaies and Parashurama Mynakahalli, Odanadi is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) focused on disrupting the organized exploitation and trafficking of children in India. Each year Odanadi's diligent field workers, founding directors and on staff councilors work with anonymous informants and the police to locate, rescue, and house children at risk.

Situated in southwest India, the Odanadi centre currently (January 16, 2011) houses 65 girls, aged 5 to 23, as well as a few boys. Life at the facility has much the same feel as an orphanage although with surprisingly little direct supervision of the children's daily activities. The youth fill their time attending school, doing chores, playing games with sticks and stones and participating in the activities organized by an endless parade of western volunteers who arrive at their door.

Over the years more then 2,600 girls have passed through Odanadi, some staying as long as ten years, some as short as a few days. The measurable success of the organization is not always a straightforward calculation. Odanadi has a stellar record of disrupting or shutting down trafficking rings and saving hundreds of children from lives of sexual or physical abuse. The children taken in by Odanadi are housed, fed, given an education and relieved of the crushing uncertainty that comes from living in squalor or servitude. Beyond these basics though, at the time of this writing very little is done to rehabilitate or treat the children for the trauma they have experienced, and the organization's reintegration program has often amounted to little more then assistance in arranging a marriage. Despite these shortcomings, it must be noted that, by in large, the population at the Odanadi facility are happy, healthy and engaged.

The work done by Odanadi is not perfect by any stretch, but while operating inside a judicial system that is often ambivalent to the plight of woman and young girls at the best of times and flat out corrupt at the worst, Odanadi has achieved results and saved lives. It's important not to rely on the idea that "anything" is better than what the children would have otherwise had, but it is also worth remembering that food, housing, an education, a childhood and a future are a great deal more than just "anything."

The ex-Odanadi girls I visited, who's marriages had been arranged by Varagaies and Mynakahalli appeared to be successful mothers and wives who had transformed the skills they learned at Odanadi into careers as seamstresses, beauticians and registered nurses. And that's something.


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